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Ability to Benefit (ATB)

Ability to Benefit: Equity in Federal Financial Aid

Access to financial aid plays a critical role in a student's ability to access, persist and complete a postsecondary education. This is especially true for students without a high school diploma or its equivalent.

In December 2014, Congress restored the Ability to Benefit (ATB) provision of the Higher Education Act. (The provision had been dropped in July 2012 as part of federal budget cuts.)

Under the ATB provision, otherwise-eligible students — who do not have a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent, but are enrolled in Title IV eligible programs — may qualify for federal financial aid.

In addition to participating in an eligible career pathway program, eligible students only need to pass an approved test, successfully complete six hours of college credit, or enroll in High School+ and an I-BEST program.

ATB provides a great opportunity for thousands of students to pursue postsecondary education and training and credentials needed for careers in high-demand occupations, both at community and technical colleges and at baccalaureate institutions.


It is important for colleges to help students in eligible career pathway programs access ATB resources. The information for college staff includes federal rules, model templates, best practices and more.

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Last Modified: 11/10/20 11:40 AM

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